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PhD Scholarship: Plasma-Catalysis Species and Characterisation (OES) for N-Fixation

School of Engineering, University of Warwick

Supervisor: Professor Volker Hessel and Professor Evgeny Rebrov
Application deadline: Apply now
Start date: 20 April 2020 or 05 October 2020
Duration: 3 years

The project: Plasma-Catalysis Species and Characterisation (OES) for N-Fixation

Non-thermal plasma can be applied to N fixation at the examples of NOx synthesis from the air and NH3 synthesis from H2 and N2. Efficient reactor design is essential to improve key performance parameters of the process, which are, first of all, energy efficiency and yield. Yet, literature studies with the existing types of plasma reactors (gliding arc, DBD), including our own ones, show that those reactors have intrinsic shortcomings, which probably set a severe limit for further optimisation.

Thus, a new reactor concept is needed, which actually enables a new process, as we suppose that transport processes and selectivity in creating active species as well as their concentration make major points. Thus, our SCOPE project proposes a new kind of microplasma, with much reduced electrode-to-electrode dimensions, microstructured reaction environment, and temperature modulations at the catalyst.

Each plasma reactor creates its own, origin excited species which finally are decisive for its performance. It is pivotal to allow proper and sound reaction modelling which is a major part of our overall project, done by other PhD students and post-docs. A strong collaboration is envisaged here, and thus a basic understanding of the modelling and its key deliverables and bottlenecks would form a valuable asset of skills of the PhD candidate. Both modelling and experimental species characterisation contribute to developing a reaction mechanism and plasma reaction kinetics.

A preferred technique will be Optical Emission Spectroscopy (OES). Thus, skills in optical spectroscopy are desirable. Development of a flow-cell to measure IR spectra via a by-pass line of the reactor stream, which is a common approach to decipher insight into the reaction mechanism of plasma reactions, will be done. Thus, the goal is to get detailed information on the radicals and their states for plasma-enabled NH3 or NOx fixation. A combination of the experimental OES results with related relevant software like Specair or Bolsig+ can help to estimate the gas temperature, radical densities and more valuable information.

For further information about this project you can contact Professor Volker Hessel by email:

We are looking for creative and highly motivated applicants with First or Upper Second degree (or EU equivalent) in chemistry, chemical engineer or plasma related research with good English communication skills. Overseas candidates can apply but you need to cover the difference in fees between home and overseas candidates.

The Scholarship will pay a tax-free annual stipend at the current rate of £15,009 and cover tuition fees at the Home/EU rate for 3 years.

How to apply:

Applicants should send a cover letter outlining motivation and suitability for this project, and a full CV with the names of two referees to Professor Volker Hessel (

If you are successful at the interview you will be required to submit a formal application for study and fulfil the entry requirements set by the University of Warwick [Click here for details of the formal admissions process].